Porn in the Time of Coronavirus: The Sex Must Go On 1

It’s a scenario so insane you couldn’t make it up: After America’s Dad, Tom Hanks (and wife Rita Wilson), came down with the novel coronavirus and a 7-foot NBA All-Star tested positive, prompting a pair of doctors to march onto the court minutes before tip-off and effectively halt the pro basketball season, President Donald Trump, an ex-reality-TV host who likes to grab unsuspecting women “by the pussy,” emerged from his Filet-O-Fish-induced stupor long enough to call a black reporter he frequently targets “nasty” for having the gall to ask about how he may have been exposed to the virus himself yet refuses to be tested. Oh, and Disneyland’s closed for only the fourth time in history aside from 9/11, the Northridge earthquake, and the national day of mourning following the JFK assassination.

Welcome to the world of COVID-19, an acute respiratory disease spread via person-to-person contact—mainly by “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes”—with such a high transmission rate it’s led to a global pandemic, infecting over 145,681 people and killing 5,436 people across 145 countries at time of writing.

With many industries encouraging people to work from home, forgo non-essential travel, and even practice “social distancing,” the deadly quagmire begs the question: How are those in porn, a job that demands deep person-to-person contact, being affected?

“While I haven’t seen a specific decline in filming, we have seen other precautions taking place. Information regarding hygiene, symptoms, and care is being shared throughout the industry,” says Alana Evans, president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG).

They’ve “yet to see any cases” of COVID-19 in the adult industry so far, she adds (though the administering of tests has been a national nightmare), but many adult performers are instituting safeguards concerning travel and attending fan expos, which require lots of hand-shaking and posing for photos. (Several of these adult trade shows have been postponed.)

Maitland Ward, a former Hollywood actress who recently took home three porn Oscars, also hasn’t seen any decline in shoots, though people are on alert and “checking if performers are healthy with no symptoms.”

“The adult industry is inherently good at taking precautions and relying on health screening—of course it’s primarily STD screenings demanded by law every 14 days, but nevertheless we deal with things like cutting the risk of potential outbreaks or infections as a way of life,” she explains. “So, as an industry, we may be better equipped to take swift action and alert performers of outbreaks.”

Indeed, there have been a few HIV outbreaks in the porn industry over the years that’s forced the adult world to spring into action to contain it. In 2004, after a male performer tested positive for HIV, there was a 30-day shutdown on filming while mass testing was initiated (five performers were ultimately found to be infected); and in 2013, when a female performer was found to be HIV-positive, there was a six-day shutdown (two others tested positive).

Sets are being cleaned with extra precautions and social distancing is being practiced where possible. One producer I spoke with talked about potentially using thermometers to test people on set before beginning.

Angela White, aka the “Meryl Streep of Porn,” says she’s following the guidance of the Free Speech Coalition—the adult industry trade association—which last week released a health advisory regarding the novel coronavirus that’s being updated periodically:

“While we are monitoring public health departments, we do not believe that a mandatory production hold is warranted at this time. We are wary of cutting off performers’ ability to generate income by prematurely restricting their ability to work while risk is low—especially with the potential for a longer and larger business shutdown looming…We are asking that performers and producers who continue to shoot be incredibly vigilant and take common-sense precautions, including educating performers and crew about prevention, limiting the size of sets, and discontinuing air travel whenever possible.”

According to Mike Stabile, the Free Speech Coalition’s communications director, the adult industry is uniquely prepared to handle the novel coronavirus since they’re “an industry that understands relative transmission fairly well” and “already have precautions around handling fluids.”

“Right now, most performers want to continue to shoot while they can—sets are less risky than the grocery store, and who knows how long an Italian-style shutdown will last. Adult performers don’t get sick days or government bailouts, and many crew members’ non-adult jobs are already being cancelled,” Stabile explains. “Producers are taking precautions like shooting locally, to minimize air travel, and using crew members to pick up performers, so as to avoid Uber. Sets are being cleaned with extra precautions and social distancing is being practiced where possible. One producer I spoke with talked about potentially using thermometers to test people on set before beginning.”

Some adult stars, like Tasha Reign, have been focusing more on shooting solo content in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, though not entirely. “I have recently shot with performers, and I’ve just made sure that they were not coughing or exhibiting signs of sickness,” says Reign. “It is risky. I’m nervous about what this pandemic means for the world. I’m stocking up on supplies and I’m trying not to touch my face or go in crowds often.”

The most common refrain among those in the adult world, however, is that they’re ready for what’s coming.

“While no one right now is sure about this virus and how to perfectly handle this kind of situation, I feel the adult industry is more prepared than most because we live by health precautions and preparedness on a daily basis,” says Ward. “It’s also true that this is a close-knit community, so we do need to be extra cautious because of the nature of the work we do. But I believe we are on alert.”